Monday
Feb072011

Family Tree Narrative

Family Tree Narrative
6x1/2 hr Doc Series
APTN, SCN, Book Television

Directed and Edited by Martin de Valk

Assu of Cape Mudge - The Assu family—their name meaning “a father that’s highly respected”—descend from Chief Billy Assu, the last hereditary chief of the We Wai Kai band (Kwakwaka’wakw) in Cape Mudge, a tiny community on the southwest shore of BC’s Quadra Island. Donald Assu, his siblings and children discuss the continued importance of the potlatch ceremony to their family and their people—its history, its songs, the poetic and ancient language of big-house orators, and thepassing on of traditional names.

Marchand of the Okanagan - The Okanagan people are a nation running through two countries. The Marchand family came to their BC home when their grandmother Mary Ann rode up from Washington State by horseback. Len Marchand, his sister Pauline Chiba and her daughter Valerie share the stories of their ancestors who farmed, fished, gardened, picked berries and sold cordwood to sustain the family. Len, who became the country’s first Native MP as part of Trudeau’s 1968 election team, discusses his grandmother’s influence on his sense of identity and how starkly it contrasted with the public image of his people at that pivotal point in Canadian history.

Lavallee of the Piapot - From his home on the Piapot reserve in the Qu’Appelle Valley of Saskatchewan, medicine man Ray Lavallee has spent his life preserving and sharing the spiritual traditions of his Cree ancestors. He talks about his reverence for his grandfather, who could communicate with spirits, and his grandmother, whose work as a medicine woman focused on delivering babies. He gathers many of his medicines on the patch of virgin prairie that he and his wife Tillie have nurtured.

Dorion of Prince Albert and Cumberland House - Leah Dorion and her aunts Isabelle Impey and Elsie Sanderson can follow the roots of their Saskatchewan family back 10 generations, all the way to the ville du Québec in the 1600s. In the process, Leah has discovered the great mobility of her Métis ancestors, who not only migrated across Canada but also travelled widely through the U.S. These women relate the details of a complicated lineage that has seen some branches of the family become Treaty Indians while others did not; the mixing of bloodlines as diverse as Cree, French, Ojibwa, Yankton Sioux and Iowa; and the tale of a First World War vet who was removed from treaty when he returned from the front.

Hungry Wolf of the Blood Tribe - Beverly Hungry Wolf, author of The Ways of My Grandmothers, is a member of the Blood Tribe of the Blackfoot people. Her traditional home in southern Alberta is just under Chief Mountain on land chosen by Chief Red Crow. Beverly and her family discuss the significance of beaver bundles for their people’s healing and spiritual traditions, the importance of learning one’s history, and their community’s renewed interest in their ancestors’ way of life.

Dion of the Kehewin - Joe Dion, Florence Buffalo and Madeline Dion, of the Kehewin Reserve in Alberta’s northeast corner, can trace their family line back to the venerable Cree chief Big Bear. Joe talks about his visit with the Queen during the Alberta Centennial, as head of a delegation seeking redress for Treaty 6. He explains that he didn’t want to see the constitution repatriated without Native rights
being enshrined. His sister Madeline, widely recognized for her work on women’s health issues, discusses the systematic erasing of memory that her people have had to overcome. Florence explains her sense of responsibility to her children in passing on family lore.